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'Money' packs punch for South Africa

Updated: 2014-01-16 07:33
By Associated Press in Cape Town ( China Daily)

Boxing legend embarks on mission to raise sport's profile during visit

Forget world's best fighter; Floyd Mayweather Jr is rated by the South African government as the world's greatest athlete and is looking to him to "resuscitate" boxing in the country.

Mayweather was scheduled to arrive on Wednesday for a six-day visit, his first to Africa and a triumph for the country that finally got its man after trying to lure the 36-year-old superstar as guest of honor at the national sports awards last year.

The Ministry of Sport and Recreation said the boxer nicknamed 'Money' was not being paid any fee to come.

It hopes he can do more than just throw a few jabs and sign a few autographs for boxing in South Africa, which was still popular but in steady decline.

Mayweather's four-city visit would help "resuscitate" the sport, ministry spokesman Paena Galane said.

"Remember, he is the greatest athlete in the world," Galane said.

Mayweather's schedule will include an exhibition at a gym in the Johannesburg township of Soweto and possibly a visit to late South African president Nelson Mandela's apartheid-era jail on Robben Island when he is in Cape Town.

Mayweather will also visit Bloemfontein and East London on the southeast coast, the city regarded as the hotbed of South African boxing.

"We wanted someone who is knowledgeable as a fighter and as a promoter," Galane said of South Africa's pursuit of Mayweather to be the catalyst for its boxing revival.

Mayweather does both better than most.

In his last fight, in September, he dominated Canelo Alvarez to improve to 45-0 with 26 knockouts and enhance his reputation as the best boxer of his era.

He earned $41.5 million for the fight, which was the richest in history and generated about $150 million in television revenue alone.

The five-division world champion hasn't announced an opponent for his next fight, expected to be in May, although Britain's Amir Khan has said he has signed an initial contract that may give him a shot at the undefeated American.

Galane dismissed suggestions reporters wouldn't be allowed to ask Mayweather questions on his future fight plans when he appears alongside South Africa's sports minister and the head of its Olympic committee at a promotional event in Johannesburg.

While the flamboyant Mayweather is expected to be accompanied by his usual large entourage, the sports ministry said he would arrive on a commercial flight from the United States and not on a private jet.

 'Money' packs punch for South Africa

Floyd Mayweather (left) gets tangled up with Canelo Alvarez during their world junior middleweight title fight in Las Vegas last September. Mayweather is on a six-day visit to South Africa that the government hopes will help 'resuscitate' boxing in that country. Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press file

(China Daily 01/16/2014 page23)